UT junior Anastasiya Byelousova won’t be spending the summer at home in San Antonio. She will be traveling across the world in search of solutions to a surprisingly big problem in Texas – maternal mortality.
Women dying during pregnancy, childbirth or the first few weeks of motherhood should not be a problem in the United States, but it is. In fact, the United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rate of any country in the developed world, and Texas has one of the highest rates in the U.S.
“Pregnancy-related deaths are a devastating tragedy that leave many Texas families broken,” says Gov. Greg Abbott, and the state has committed resources to finding solutions to this problem. Anastasiya believes researchers at UT, including other undergraduate students, could help.
Her suggestion — Texas should look to an unexpected success story, Georgia. The Republic of Georgia, not the state, recently turned around its high maternal mortality rates. The questions Anastasiya is asking are: Can Texas repeat their success, and if so, how?
“In just two years Georgia halved their maternal mortality,” says Anastasiya. “There’s not a lot of research done in Georgia as to why that happened or how that happened, so we are going to travel there.”
Anastasiya is one of four undergraduate students from The University of Texas at Austin leading this international research project. The project is funded by President’s Award for Global Learning, which grants up to $25,000 and fully funded travel to find solutions abroad to problems affecting Texans.
“We’re going to be able to meet with government officials, go into the hospitals and speak with doctors, and also speak with expecting mothers or mothers who recently gave birth. We are going to try to piece this puzzle together,” she says, “collecting research on what is happening in Georgia and from that learning how to apply their success in Texas.”
Anastasiya and her teammates Parth Gupta, Michael Sanchez and Lyndsey Wang will be in the country for 10 weeks this summer. The students will be accompanied by government professor Amy Liu and sociology professor Sharmila Rudrappa.
Anastasiya says this is exactly the type of experience she dreamed about when she applied to UT. After graduation, she is determined that the work she does with her degree will have a real impact on the lives of others.
But right now, she has her sights set on the problem before her. Anastasiya says she feels immensely proud that work she is doing now could help save the lives of Texas mothers in the future.